Stand­off over refugees

NewsMail - - WORLD -

MALTA yes­ter­day re­it­er­ated its re­fusal to open its ports to an NGO mi­grant res­cue ship in the Mediter­ranean with hun­dreds of peo­ple on board, ig­nor­ing calls from Italy’s hard­line in­te­rior min­is­ter to not “look the other way”.

Some 629 migrants were saved by SOS Mediter­ra­nee on Satur­day and are stuck aboard the French NGO’s ship Aquarius, which is be­tween Malta and Si­cily wait­ing for a se­cure port at which to dock and se­cure as­sis­tance.

Mat­teo Salvini, in a joint state­ment with Danilo Toninelli, min­is­ter in charge of the Ital­ian coast­guard, in­sisted that Malta “can­not con­tinue to look the other way when it comes to re­spect­ing pre­cise in­ter­na­tional con­ven­tions on the pro­tec­tion of hu­man life”.

“That’s why we ask the gov­ern­ment in Val­letta to take in the Aquarius in or­der to of­fer first aid to the migrants on board,” the state­ment con­tin­ued.

Malta’s Gov­ern­ment said Prime Min­is­ter Joseph Mus­cat had spo­ken to Ital­ian Premier Giuseppe Conte, and un­der­lined “that Malta is act­ing in full con­form­ity with its in­ter­na­tional obli­ga­tions”.

“As such Malta will not take the said ves­sel in its ports,” the state­ment con­tin­ued.

Me­dia re­ports ear­lier said Mr Salvini had threat­ened to close ac­cess to Ital­ian ports for mi­grant res­cue ships if Malta failed to act.

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